Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

February 12, 2015

Writing goals for 2015

Filed under: administraviata,news of the day,wordsmithery — Tags: , , , , , , — lexifab @ 9:51 pm

Like the Christmas tree in the living room that we still haven’t taken down, so too are my New Years’ writing resolutions coming through grotesquely late. Or no, wait, let’s pretend these are Chinese New Year resolutions, because those are totally a tradition in my Mediterranean-descended, lapsed Anglican leftie ex-pat Queenslander subculture. Besides, I’m quite fond of goats.

Anyway, this is my now-annual hold-myself-to-account post on my writing goals for the year. This is what I want to achieve at a minimum. Ideally I’ll beat these goals by a wide margin, especially if I get my writing streak back in place.

Short stories

At the moment I have about seven completed stories in circulation, which is to say out for submission to various publishers.

One of my goals last year was to complete ten stories, which was eminently achievable, even if I didn’t quite achieve it. This year, my plans are a little more modest. Because I intend to shift my focus onto novel writing (see below) but want to retain some short story momentum, the plan is to always have at least ten finished stories in circulation.

That means that if I retire one from circulation (like the one that’s out now for its 20th and probably final submission) or if one is actually accepted for publication, I need to get a replacement out there as soon as possible. In practise, that means that step one is to complete the three or four stories I have in rough draft, and then maybe sketch out another one or two in preparation for the next time I need to return the budget to surplus (so to speak).

Of course, the caveat here is that the stories have to be good enough for me to want to send them out under my own name. There’s a minimum standard of quality here that I won’t allow myself to slip below. On the other hand, what I’ll need to watch out for is that I don’t let my natural self-critical inclinations get in the way of getting things finished and out the door. Evidence suggests that I am more than capable of chewing over drafts and procrastinating on edits for months at a time, to the detriment of other, more valuable work. I have to make sure I stay out of my own way.

Short story goals: (i) Get my submittable stories up to ten; (ii) always have ten stories in circulation.

Novels

For me, this is the big one. From the painful experience of couple of fairly attempts in the past, I’ve convinced myself that novel-length stories are not a comfortable fit for me. I’ve had a novel outline worked out in (for me) quite a lot of detail for almost a year now.

In all that time, I’ve come up with every excuse under the sun not to start: “I need to finish these short stories first.” “I don’t know if I can fit it in with my job hunting.” (Yes, seriously, i used that one a lot!) “I don’t really know what’s happened in the middle of the novel.” “Am I really sure my lead character doesn’t have the stupidest name in all literature?” and of course, “I really, really want to watch Breaking Bad before I get spoiled for the ending.” (PS: Still winning on that last one. Please don’t spoil the ending of Breaking Bad for me. I’m more than halfway through now).

In the end, all the excuses are blithering nonsense. I want to be a not-completely-obscure writer, so I need to write what people are reading. Pretty much only Ken Liu and Kelly Link are capable of becoming huge in the science fiction and fantasy genre without writing novels. I am neither, nor do I have the requisite initials of KL. Anyone else who wants to make a mark writes a novel.

So, I’m writing a novel. I think I’m going to start on the first of March, or thereabouts. The goal is to finish it by the end of July, which will require a mildly demanding commitment of 500 words a day. The presence of a detailed outline should help, but we’ll see.

The novel, by the way, is the first volume in a young adult science fiction trilogy. Yes, one of those – do feel free to groan audibly. So I will be writing (a) a novel which is (b) part of a series with (c) a young adult protagonist in (d) a fairly-hard science fiction setting. Every single one of those is outside my comfort zone. Put them all together and I expect to be either a gibbering wreck or a phoenix ascending on wings of flaming triumph. Possibly somewhere between the two.

Novel goal: Write a first draft of an 80,000-ish word novel by the end of July.

Supplementary goal: Don’t become a gibbering wreck.

Community activity

I like being a member of a writing community. So much so that I’ve volunteered as the Treasurer of the CSFG committee this. Apart from getting my head around the minor complexities of double-entry bookkeeping, one of my less glamorous writing projects for the year will be to prepare a how-to manual for being the club treasurer. Handovers from one committee to the next have traditional been slow, stuttering affairs – I want to do my bit to make the handover to the next poor sap as seamless as possible by giving them a reference.

Okay, it’s pretty boring, but technical writing is still writing, and in the end it might be among the more demonstrably useful things I do this year. Market analytics indicate the potential audience could be as high as one person every two years, which is on a par with the current audience for my fiction. 😉

Treasurer goal: Write the book on being the CSFG Treasurer. Also, do all the treasuring stuff.

I’ve also taken a relatively minor, straightforward job with the Conflux convention organising committee. I’ll be coordinating the dealers’ room, which means organising vendors, setting up tables and probably getting a heap of coffees for people. In reality I’ll probably end up being roped into other tasks, but at this stage my contribution will be low-key. It didn’t occur to me until later that the not-immediately-obvious benefit of this particular job is that I will have an excuse – no, obligation – to introduce myself to as many publishers of science fiction and fantasy fiction as possible.

Blogging

By trivial coincidence, this should be the 700th blog post on Lexifabricographer. That’s a little hard to believe, but I’m prepared to accept the word of my blog dashboard rather than go back and count. My buddy Andrew kicked my first Lexifab blog over to WordPress back in February 2006, which means this one has been going even longer than the old Blogger one.

It’s looking a bit long in the tooth, to be honest. Since I only started using searchable tags at the start of last year, it’s a bit of a pain to find anything specific on this site. well, if there were anything particularly worth searching for, which is not a call I’d make.

Time for a makeover!

Or rather, time to build a completely new website, dedicated to the whole “being an author” thing. I’ll blog my news and writing stuff there, post up free fiction for Marco, and sales portals for anything that I eventually get published (or published myself). Plus I will totally get a swanky author photo, possibly featuring the subject leaning nonchalantly against something and smirking awkwardly.

With the hosts’ permission, I’ll probably keep this site around for family-and-friends blogging. That separation feels important, not particularly because I’ll be hiding anything, but more because I do occasionally feel moved to commit acts of diary. I can see times when that’s probably not what readers of my epic fourteen-novel series about vampire Hussars on the Trans-Siberian railway will be hunting for.

(PS: Someone commission me to write about railway vampires, because I could totally lock that corner of the market).

As part of the push to furnish the new site with some content, I’ll probably be pushing some free content out – flash pieces and drabbles, most likely. I had a mad urge to undertake a Drabble-a-Day challenge (a drabble is a short story of exactly 100 words, by the way) but I’m not going to distract myself with that until I’ve got the story and novel projects well underway.

None of this will happen quickly. I’ll be teaching myself all of the web administration stuff as I go (or more likely cadging favours from friends who already know how to do all this stuff). So far I don’t even have the domain name. Will get to that after the weekend.

Blog goal: Build a new author website like a real grownup might have.

Let’s go, 2015!

Those are my concrete must-haves for 2015. Those are the things I want to have done and locked by the end of the year. I reckon it’s all achievable, though how comfortably so will depend a lot on how readily I overcome my various anxieties relating to long-form fiction, unfamiliar social interactions and systems administration.

In my next post, I’ll go through a shopping list of more esoteric writing goals – stuff I feel like I want to try my hand at, even if I don’t have a specific purpose in mind just yet.

 

 

 

February 2, 2015

February made me shiver

Filed under: fitter/happier,wordsmithery — Tags: — lexifab @ 5:23 pm

By now I should have a plan.

I mean, I keep feeling like I should have a plan, but the idea of sitting down and plotting out a plan is giving me chills. I already know that I work better to deadlines. Surely the smart thing to do is set myself some deadlines and then stick to them?

Except no, because I can’t quite bring myself to sit down and make a plan.

Making plans is just asking for trouble really. Anything could happen to throw my carefully-crafted schemes into utter disarray. Who am I, thinking I can impose order on an essentially chaotic universe?

Or if it’s not an essentially chaotic universe, what then? “If you want to make God laugh,” said Woody Allen, “tell him your plans.” Hmm, actually I’m not sure I care to take advice from a ghastly old child abuser. Neither of them.

Still, just because I have a plan, doesn’t mean I have to stick by it through hell and high water, does it? I could just make myself a rough guide. A mudmap. A fritzy GPS with a “near enough is good enough” approach to software updates. I could sketch out a skeleton scheme and make changes as circumstances prescribe. Stay loose. Stay flexible. Keep skating and don’t look back.

…oh hell. I need a plan, don’t I?

*grumbles.

*plans.

January 27, 2015

Dithering in January

Filed under: administraviata,wordsmithery — Tags: , — lexifab @ 1:54 pm

This hasn’t exactly been the month for covering myself in glory, writing-wise. I’ve written almost nothing – about one-and-two-thirds short stories, adding up to perhaps five or six thousand words. More than I had when I started the month, certainly, but a long way short of my starry-eyed projections from the end of November. Come to think of it, December was a bit of a wash as well.

Certainly there have been valid distractions – we’ve renovated an entire bedroom, the kids have been at home more, there have been festive season commitments and bits of travel, and as of the middle of the month, I’ve gone back to work.

Even so, it’s a bit disappointing. I was hoping to make January a month of deck-clearing. I wanted to polish up a couple of old story drafts, knock out a couple of new ones, and have a clean plate for diving into a new novel attempt from the start of February. But with a bunch of admin jobs still hanging over my head and gathering an odium of stagnation about them, I’m skeptical that I can really hit the ground running come Sunday the first.

So be it. I’m making lists and ticking them off, and at some point I’ll have stripped off enough of these other obligations that I can feel free to focus on the words.

Until then – more dithering. Early in February I will set myself some goals for the year, but until then I’ll concentrate on getting my jungle of distractions under control.

Pass the defoliant.

January 7, 2015

Late breaking news – not a winner

Filed under: news of the day,wordsmithery — Tags: , , — lexifab @ 10:10 pm

To my not very great surprise, the winners of the Writers of the Future quarter finals have been announced. To save you from clicking on the potentially heartbreaking link, my name is notably absent from the list.

Not to worry. As I noted to a couple of well-wishers today, the momentary disappointment of not getting picked was more than dispelled by the possibility that Tim Powers (one of the listed judges) might have read something I wrote. All right, it seems the odds are better than even that he didn’t like it, but I reiterate: Tim Freaking Powers!

(Also on the list of judges was Nnedi Okorafor, whose alien-invasion-in-Lagos novel Lagoon I read and enjoyed just last week, and a bunch of little-known emerging writers by the names of Silverberg, Niven, Pournelle and Card, who I’m sure will become popular in years to come.)

I didn’t win. Don’t care. I still have a *serious* case of fanboy giddiness.

January 5, 2015

Quarter finalist

I’m rather excited that my story “Mnemo’s Memory” [1] has been selected as a quarter finalist for the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future competition. My name appears in this press release and everything! My gleefully science-ignoring adventurous yarn of airships, steam automatons and an evil villain with an Antarctic lair will be, at the very least, read and critiqued by a luminary of the field. (Seriously, the Big Names associated with WotF are people whose work I’ve been reading across the last thirty years. I am dead-set thrilled that someone like Tim freakin’ Powers or Larry freakin’ Niven might read my work). And that’s before you look at the prize of a week-long intensive writing workshop in Los Angeles with a host of said luminaries, followed by a gala award ceremony to pick the overall winner. Not bad. My friend and CSFG colleague Shauna O’Meara was a finalist in 2013 and blogged about it at length.

Like the quarter-finals at the Olympics, only the top three of eight stories go through to the finals, while everyone else goes back to the drawing board to try again next time. Mind you in this case “next time” is pretty much straight away, since they run these competitions every three months. Anyone who has yet to make three professional sales (defined as a minimum payment of 6c per word) is eligible to enter. That definitely includes me.

Does my little story have the legs to make it all the way to the finals? Eh, I dunno. I’d like to think so, but I’ve written and learned quite a lot since I penned that one over two years ago. I think I could do even better now. Even if it doesn’t make it, I’m still happy. This is a definite signal that I’m moving in the direction I want.

 

[1] …which is a title I have *never once* typed correctly the first time, which is probably a lesson of some sort.

January 3, 2015

Late exit to 2014

I’ve been away up the coast for a week, so I missed the usual barrage of blog posts summarising my 2014. Just because I’m late doesn’t mean I’m not going to do it though.

Just to note, this is mainly for my benefit, holding myself to account for my plans for the year, as articulated way back in January in this subtly-named post.

Checking the checklist:

1) Finish the current draft of the novel: Done. Man, it feels like such a long time ago that I even thought about my novel (well, not strictly true, since I thought about it today during the fourteen-hour drive back from northern NSW [1]). I finished up the full-rewrite draft of the novel (working title Ms Cole’s Arrangements) a couple of days into March, then immediately put it on the back burner. Two full drafts through, I still can’t work out whether it should be one novel, two novels, or a novel and two novellas; the shape of the story just defeats me every time I try to think about it. I’m quite sure there’s a decent yarn in there, but I honestly don’t know if I can hang it on a framework that will make it readable. I know I have to go back to it sooner or later, but I don’t mind admitting that I’m still intimidated by it. I met my word count goal, but I didn’t really knock over the target.

2) Write 10 publishable short stories: Partial credit. “Should be a doddle”, I said. Ho ho ho. I sort of achieved this goal and sort of not. I got 7 stories polished to the point where I was happy to start sending them out for submission (identified by truncated titles here): Feast, Dogs, Hat Trick, Season One, Teahouse, Lighthouse, Violin. Pleasingly, one of them – The Teahouse of Serendipitous Unions – sold to the professional market it was written for. However, a sale isn’t the benchmark here, completion is.

I also wrote complete drafts of School Hall and Incidental, both of which I have yet to finish revising (soon!), I wrote about 10,000 words all up on multiple versions of Serpentine Precipice and The Countess, though neither is yet complete. I wrote about fifteen incomplete flash fiction pieces i.e. ideas that I couldn’t work out how to turn into an actual story i.e. they don’t count here. And on the morning of the 31st of December I wrote the first half of a mildly comic crime story which I will finish later tonight or tomorrow morning.

So that’s seven that fit the criteria, two more that would have were I a more diligent editor, two major dead ends which might still lead somewhere later, and a start on the new year. Not a clean landing, but I tried a lot of different things and I’m happy with the overall results.

3) Submit 25 times: Done and then some. Between the couple of existing stories and the new material, I made a total of 45 submissions (and resubmissions) in 2014. Of those, *one* was accepted for publication. I learned yesterday afternoon that another one (written last year) has been shortlisted for a competition, so that one is in with a chance. Everything else is in the hands of the gods (defined here as “bored slush readers and overworked/underpaid magazine editors”). This business is a slow grind, people. I won’t be happy until I have at least 10 stories in circulation. Preferably more. In terms of diligence and application to the grind of reading and complying with submission guidelines and finding new ways to write the same damn cover letter over and over again, I did what I set out to do.

4) Non-specific target markets: To do. I wrote a few pieces this year with specific markets in mind. Teahouse hit the mark, but Lighthouse didn’t and the jury is still out on Violin. I mentioned on Facebook that the Australia-based Ticonderoga themed anthologies are becoming my white whale – I write to them, with some of my best work, and haven’t yet broken through. I haven’t even tried to get into Cosmos yet (because I haven’t written any science fiction this year, but also because I know what it takes to make it and I’m not there yet). In terms of international markets, I will probably still be trying to get into Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Clarkesworld, in particular, in five years time. I’m not going to stop trying though.

 

2014 could have been better in a lot of ways, but in terms of my writing I achieved close enough to everything I set out to. In retrospect I probably set the bar a little too low and then didn’t really push myself very hard. Over the course of the year I worked up outlines for several novels, any one of which I might reasonably have had a stab at writing. In all honesty I’m not confident of my ability to write to a novel length – my attempts to date have been unsatisfying, but in ways where I haven’t felt like I’ve learned something useful. I feel like I should take that ignorance as a challenge and learn-by-doing and then learn-by-doing-again. But I have yet to make the mental leap to convince myself that a failed attempt is not a waste of time or misapplied effort. Right now it seems like an awful lot of work to write a novel only to confirm that I don’t know how to write a novel

But then again I made the conscious decision at the start of the year to focus on short stories. And I’m proud of the work that I’ve done, which certainly includes some of the best stories I’ve ever written. Over the course of the year and across the various projects I’ve completed, I’ve had a distinct feeling of gradually but decisively leveling up my skill. Definitely not misapplied effort, even if individual stories never find the readership that I think (in my egotistical heart) they deserve.

I think that at least for the first couple of months of 2015 short stories are where I’ll continue to put my energy. I want to get a few more under my belt before I decide whether to change tack and try for a novel. But that’s a post for another day.

 

[1] Sorry Clam, there was absolutely no time for a surprise visit. One of these days though!

December 21, 2014

Contemplating my trunk

Filed under: wordsmithery — Tags: , , , , , , , — lexifab @ 9:17 pm

I’ve hit a new and unwelcome writing milestone: one of my stories appears to be unsellable.

I want to be a paid author. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my goals as a short story writer – learn the craft, improve my skills, become a recognisable name outside my immediate personal circles and eventually cultivate a reputation that results in editors commissioning work from me.

Money isn’t one of my specific benchmarks. I don’t expect to make a living from writing just short stories (the best short story writers in the genre can’t do that, and I’m not arrogant enough to believe that I will ever compete on the level of someone like Ken Liu or Kaaron Warren or Ramsay Campbell or insert-your-favourite-short-story-writer-here).

That said, the quality of the markets that accept my work will provide a rough guide to how I’m doing on that path, and in terms of professional recognition and industry credibility, the better-paying the market, the more confident I can feel that I’m getting it right. So when I submit my (finished, polished) work for publication, I start with the professional markets and work my way down.

There are a lot of markets for fiction. A *lot*. Dozens or maybe hundreds. At the top of the heap are the established print magazines, major online periodicals and anthologies by the top editors in the business – everything from Asimov’s and F&SF to newer places like Tor.com, Clarkesworld Magazine and (locally) Aurealis. These are the targets I’m aiming at, the ones that attract and solicit professional writers with loyal readerships and broad name recognition.

Yeah, I’m not there yet. Maybe I never will be. It’s still a good light to navigate by.

Below that are the semi-pro markets. Semi-pro is generally defined by lower per-word rates of pay (i.e. less than six US cents per word, the SFWA-recognised minimum standard rate) but still with strong name recognition and well-regarded editors. Below those are the token markets, which offer minor payments for first-publication rights, and below that are the non-paying markets, which – well, if I wanted to write for “the exposure”, I really would just slap stuff up on Wattpad and/or my blog.

On my positive days, I reckon I am writing at or near a semi-professional rate. I know I’ve got more work to do to get there with any degree of reliability – my stories miss more often than they hit. But I’ve proven to myself that I can do it, so it only remains to show the rest of the world.

Which brings me to the story in question. I’m very proud of the piece. Perhaps inordinately so. I wrote the first draft as part of a CSFG 24-hour short story challenge, taking a collection of random prompts and translating them into a tale of strange pilgrims, opportunistic inn-keepers and the implosion of a group of friends. The story solidified over a couple of additional editing passes, and eventually I decided I couldn’t make it any better.

So I sent it out to market.

When I was drafting it, I had a specific market in mind – high-end professional online magazine publishing second-world fantasy – and that’s where I submitted it first. They didn’t take it. Mildly disappointing, but not a huge surprise. I sent it out again, picking another website with similar tastes. Another rejection. And so on, and suchlike, all year.

This week I sent the story out for the twentieth time. On the one hand, I regard this as a good sign that I am persevering appropriately. It’s not easy to get an acceptance, and an editor might reject a good story for reasons that have nothing to do with its quality (length, voice, similarity in theme or structure to another piece in that month’s issue, etc). You can’t win without the lottery ticket, and you’ve got to roll with the rejections and you’ve got to develop a thick skin. I’ve probably missed a few hoary old standards, but those are the main ones.

On the other hand, it’s becoming apparent that the story isn’t as good as I think it is. It may well be nearly that good – several of the more personalised responses indicated that it was enjoyable but “not a good fit” or “not what we’re looking for” – but that’s not the same thing as “too good to refuse”.

Over the past fourteen months I’ve pushed it out to every pro and semi-pro market with guidelines that match the piece (it’s second-world or “not-Earth” fantasy, it’s on the longish side of what most publishers are looking for at over 7000 words, and it has mildly adult situations that exclude it from certain markets).

Now I’m down to the markets offering token payments (like ten or twenty bucks, or a contributor copy, or a free e-subscription) and – look, I know it sounds snobbish, but the question I’m asking myself is, is it worth selling my work to a publication that I probably would personally not read?

Am I better off retiring the story from circulation, and either dumping it in a folder of shame on Dropbox – the modern equivalent of dropping the manuscript in a trunk in the attic, never to be seen again in my lifetime – or putting it up on a “free stories” page on my website? Bearing in mind that I have every intention anyway of posting up any stories that I’ve sold, once their online publication rights revert to me?

In effect, should I give up on this one, or keep plugging away until it finally finds a home, no matter how modest or tucked-away? Certain regular correspondents have already expressed opinions (hi Clam!) and those opinions are by no means invalid. At least putting it up on my website allows for the possibility that a few people will read it, which is always gratifying.

The question I struggle with, though, is whether I should be thinking of this as a setback or an inevitable by-product of the submission grind? Or both? Or neither?

I dunno.

What I do know is that right at the moment I am writing a story that is best summed up as “magic robots versus werewolves”, and it is self-evidently the best thing I have ever written.

Or at the very least, the latest.

November 30, 2014

NotNaNo Day 30 – Cross the finish line. Start a new race.

Filed under: news of the day,wordsmithery — Tags: , — lexifab @ 11:18 pm

I limped across the line. I needed 330 words to get to my target, and I’ve just rambled out about 375. Good enough, but it won’t be good enough next month.

This has been an interesting experiment and mostly a successful one. The basic goals I set for myself were to keep my writing streak going at a pace of at least 500 words per day, to continue Serpentine Precipice (in the mathematical expectation that I would not complete it, as I’m projecting it will be much more than 15,000 words), to write a short story to a specific themed anthology submission call, to rewrite School Hall and my Nullabor breakdown stories, and to blog about my progress every day.

How did I go?

Well:

  • Writing streak – tick. I continued the writing streak that started before November, writing new first draft fiction every single day. Yay!
  • 500 word a day pace – tick. 30 days times 500 word minimum equals 15,000 words. As of the writing sprint that I just completed, I have 15,040 words in the bank. Target adequately met.
  • Serpentine Precipice – By the time I suspended work on it a week ago, SP was a bit over 11,000 words, constituting most of what I’ve written this month, though i started it before November kicked off.
  • Short story submission – I wrote Third Violin from scratch (about 5000 words), revised it at least four times and sent it off with a hopeful expression on its face this morning.
  • School Hall – Didn’t touch it. Didn’t even think about it.
  • Nullabor breakdown – Likewise, only more so.
  • Blogging – I didn’t get a blog entry in every day, but I didn’t miss too many days. I’m happy with that.

What next?

Serpentine Precipice was shaping up to have a compelling protagonist and an interesting setting, but the plot was rambling and too many characters were wandering on and off-stage without any great consequence. I could see the writing on the wall well before I pulled the plug on that one: it needs to be plotted. I was spending too much of my time colouring in the pretty little bits of world-building and not enough time on establishing what things were happening and why a reader should care about them. I am pretty excited to write it because I don’t let myself play in action-adventure fantasy nearly enough, but the cost of that is that I need a clear picture of where the story is going so that I don’t bog the pace down in unnecessary detail. That is harder for me than it ought to be, which is why I think writing an unsellable novella about a mute half-demon bastard son of a merchant empire is a worthwhile exercise.

I am drafting an outline that drags the focus back down to a manageable level while still leaving room for alley-stabbing fun and cutlass battles aboard burning ships.

School Hall – The first draft was a few good characters in search of a straightforward story. It needs a page-one rewrite. Like SP, it became bloated with probably-unnecessary world detail, but on my previous attempt to edit it I could not for the life of me work out what made it suck. It will benefit from being replotted as well, but so far when I have thought about it at all I haven’t been able to figure out what that plot would look like. Once I know what it’s about, I’ll probably come up with a name for it as well.

Untitled Nullabor breakdown story – I hate abandoning stories but I think this one will end up in the archives. Like School Hall, I can’t quite get it to come together. unlike School Hall, I’m not sure that there’s a strong enough idea to make completing it a worthwhile pursuit.

Blogging – The blogging has been a bit hit and miss. On the one hand, there were definitely days during the month when it served its purpose of keeping me honest. Days when I would not let myself go to bed until I hit my word count and then recorded the result. On the other hand, there was a few days (like today) when I wrote the bare satisfactory minimum before switching over to the blog. On those days, I clearly cost myself some fiction progress just so that I could boast in public about my fiction progress. That’s not so good. In December, as I keep the streak going, I think I will cut back to weekly progress checks in the blog.

The streak – My best streak is 95 days; my current one is 32. I’ll keep going in December, and I’ll try upping the ante to see if I can build my momentum instead of letting myself coast. 600 words a day across 31 days is 18,600, which will be a fine target. I will be starting a new job during the month, I’ll have Xmas and Boxing Day in there, and I’ll be travelling in the last week of the year – so I’m definitely going to have to front-load the bulk of the work into the first week or two.

Go go go.

November 29, 2014

NotNaNo Days 28-29 – The end draws close

Filed under: green-ish thumb,news of the day,wordsmithery — Tags: , , — lexifab @ 11:28 pm

I’m in that delightful state of momentary grace, after a hard day of savagely ripping the garden apart in the hot sun and before my muscles become so sore that I feel like vomiting for hours on end. O, the joys on intermittent bursts of hard labour.

On the plus side, the overgrown pergola in the backyard has been stripped back to a non-vegetative state for the first time since we bought our house, nine years ago. Laid bare, we’ve confirmed our suspicions that it’s both ugly and an odd balance of ramshackle and impervious. The steel frame of the wooden table in its centre has been cemented directly into the concrete slab. It might be possible to cut the legs off and flatten them out with an angle grinder, but I’m coming to the conclusion that a jackhammer will be a quicker and more effective means of cleaning the space up.

(Note that I am talking myself into hiring power tools. This never ends well.)

On the assumption that by tomorrow evening – the end of the month-long write-and-blog experiment – I will be too sore to move, let alone write for extended periods, I decided I’d better put in a slightly longer stint tonight than I have been lately. Two hours of writing produced almost twice the number of words that a normal stint of forty minutes or so would. It doesn’t look like I know how to accelerate. Mind you, a lot of that time was spent transcribing the long list of character names from the last couple of night’s writing into an index so I know who all these people are. That’s done now, so I should be able to stop mucking about with prep work for the next little bit of the story.

The piece I’m writing now has the working title of The Countess. Judging by the 2000 words or so that I’ve cranked out on it so far, I’m guessing it will be a longish short story, maybe over 10,000 words. Then again I seem to be writing in my usual expansive style, dropping in story seeds and extra setting detail, that is peripheral to the story at hand. It’s possible that when I’m done a lot of that world building stuff will turn out to be useless and readily dropped.

Third Violin has been through four rounds of edits and is probably close to being as good as I can make it before the deadline for submission (30 November, in the US). I’ll give it another pass tomorrow, but with no time for a substantial rewrite I will have to hope I don’t stumble across any new problems.

Tally: 450 (Friday) and 840 (Saturday)

New fiction words for the month: 13, 380 + 1290 = 14, 670, which leaves me with a nice gentle jog to the finish line to get to my target of 15,000 for the month. Yay!

The sweeping curve of the filleting knife glinted with a wicked edge. She never allowed any of her tools to dull, but this one, the offering with which Vandolph had proposed, she prized above all.

 

November 27, 2014

NotNaNo Day 27 – Isn’t editing supposed to take words away?

Filed under: news of the day,Uncategorized,wordsmithery — Tags: , , — lexifab @ 11:46 pm

I just came off a two hour editing stint on Third Violin, which has cleared out all the first draft dross and filled in all the connective tissue to make the story work (I hope). I seem to have been less successful than I hoped I would be at reducing the word count. Before the editing pass it was 4700 words and I was hoping to cut it back below 4500 or even lower.

Instead, it’s now almost dead-on 5000 words. Uh, whut?

So I’ll definitely be doing at least one more pass on that to whittle away at the extremities. I ought to be at least able to knock off the ten percent or so I just added. Maybe.

In other news I am now bitterly regretting my self-imposed rule about not counting editing as new words, because it’s just gone eleven pm. I’m going to kick in a writing sprint and get back to you in just a minute or thirty.

[/musak]

So, yeah, I wrote the opening of a rather fervent council meeting, invented some architecture and cultural structures, and introduced a couple of supporting characters in thirty-five minutes. Things started to speed up towards the end when I started writing dialogue, but now I’m sleepy so it will have to wait.

Tally: 360

New fiction words for the month: 13, 380

“Countess Tessa Strickland,” Soffatt announced, stiff and formal.

 The introduction was unnecessary. The four men and two women assembled were intimately acquainted with Earl Strickland’s wife. Some of them knew her from childhood.

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